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Owen Hargreaves booked in for Manchester City bow

It says a lot of about the depths of despair Owen Hargreaves has dragged himself back from that his summer reading, as he rallied himself for a last shot at the Premier League, included a book about a triathlete who used positive thinking to find a way back into competitive sport, after being hit by a car while on his bike.

Hargreaves will probably only really know what depths of mental fortitude he can draw on at some point during Manchester City's Carling Cup tie with Birmingham City tonight, a game which Roberto Mancini has earmarked as the one for the 30-year-old to be eased back in — three years to the day since his last completed 90 minutes in a competitive game.

Mancini was tempted to have him on the bench for Sunday's visit to Fulham, where he was without Nigel de Jong and James Milner, but City know Hargreaves' torturous journey back will place him under the spotlight wherever and whenever he runs onto a football field again.

Yet even making it into contention to face Birmingham represents progress for Hargreaves, a £19m buy from Bayern Munich in May 2007, who appeared only 39 times in four years for United, with his last full outing a 1-1 draw at Chelsea on September 21, 2008.

Hargreaves has not wanted to tempt fate. There has been no public presentation of the player, as is usual when a new player arrives, but the mental fortitude is unmissable in an individual who is setting himself goals.

“Yes, I've written down a few targets,” he said. “It's important that you set yourself a few goals. I'll keep those to myself, but I just want to get back and play football.

“That's what I've done for a long time, but it's been taken away from me. I've missed it.”

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Tonight's match will be of more than passing interest to Fabio Capello.

The England manager wants to see Hargreaves back in his planning and the player admitted that remains an aspiration.

“If I do a great job here, then I will be in the England team probably again,” he said.

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